India’s Punjab govt moves SC over BSF’s extended border jurisdiction

India’s Punjab state government has moved the Supreme Court challenging the federal government’s decision that extended the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction to undertake search, seizure, and arrest within a 50km stretch from the international border in Assam, West Bengal, and Punjab, as compared to the earlier 15km.

The Congress government in Punjab is the first state authority to take the issue of BSF’s extension of jurisdiction to the apex court, reports our New Delhi correspondent.

West Bengal is ruled by Mamata Banerjee-led TMC, and the BJP is in power in Assam.

The Punjab state government, in its plea, said the extension of the territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force “encroaches upon the constitutional jurisdiction of the states.”

“It is submitted that the notification dated October 11, 2021 is ultra-vires (of) the Constitution as it defeats the purpose of Entry 1 and 2 of List-II of Schedule 7 of the Constitution of India and encroaches upon plaintiff’s plenary authority to legislate on issues which relate to or are necessary for the maintenance of public order and internal peace,” the Punjab government plea before the apex court said.

The Indian Home Ministry issued a notification in this context on October 11, enabling provision for the BSF personnel and officers while they operate in border areas.

While in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam, the BSF jurisdiction was enhanced from 15km to 50km, in Gujarat, which shares its border with Pakistan, the limit has been reduced from 80km to 50km.

The issue has triggered a controversy as opposition-ruled Punjab and West Bengal denounced the move and the respective state assemblies moved resolutions against the decision of the federal government.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue and has been campaigning against the extension of BSF’s jurisdiction and is telling district authorities in the state not to allow the guarding force into villages near the border without permission.

In parliament, the Indian home ministry defended the extension of BSF’s jurisdiction saying it is aimed at empowering the border guarding force to discharge its duties more effectively particularly to check to smuggle of cattle, arms, and fake Indian currency.

The ministry also contended that smugglers often take shelter in interior areas which were earlier outside BSF’s jurisdiction.